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Chicago: NATO Protests Bring Back Memories Of 1968

The DePaulia
May 29, 2012

NATO protests bring back memories of Chicago ’68
By Matt Harder

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Many protesters were there to actually oppose the so-called global military arm, NATO, whom my dad says, “just spreads the U.S. agenda by giving us an excuse to ship out troops for the implementation of Western influence.”

“All I know is that it doesn’t stop…[it] didn’t stop in the ’60s, got lost in the ’70s with consumerism and technology, but now it’s back: ‘Why are you sending people to kill other people?’”

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At Sunday’s NO NATO rally many different perspectives were represented.
It’s come up in many recent discussions that there are stark similarities and differences between the 1968 Democratic convention and the NATO Summit of 2012. The most glaring likenesses are the location and mass numbers of protesters and police. The differences, in short, are the political agendas of the protesters, the police, and the reasons for their presence in the downtown streets of Chicago – the government.

My soon to be 66 year old father, Kent Harder, was 22 when he took a train from Michigan State University to Chicago, where he and his left-wing friend planned to protest the war in Vietnam. The protesters, he says, did not start the violence at the ‘68 Convention.

Last weekend, he watched the major networks’ coverage of NATO endlessly, hoping I was not getting beat up or arrested (I covered both the conference and the protests first-hand). His reaction to the protesters purpose in ’68 goes the same way for NATO. The difference is, at NATO, “there was a diversity of concerns.”

In 1968, not just the youth stood by a unified call for ‘NO WAR,’ but rather, all Americans. The whole world was watching…watching the U.S. send people all over the world for wars, protecting and fighting for its own self-interest. Many others like my dad decided they wanted that unified call to be on the Democrats’ political agenda, immediately. What they didn’t expect was the violence that ensued the rallying speeches in Grant Park.

Although the NO NATO protesters were extremely diverse in their reasons for marching last weekend, the ‘no war’ voices were heard loud and clear. Many protesters were there to actually oppose the so-called global military arm, NATO, whom my dad says, “just spreads the U.S. agenda by giving us an excuse to ship out troops for the implementation of Western influence.”

“They came from the south and started beating people for no reason…I just wanted to get out of there.”

My dad tells the stories of being beaten 3 separate times, and eventually being carried off the streets by mercenary-style triage. They brought wounded protesters to the backs of Marshall Field’s trucks in the Loop alleyways and tended to their wounds.

Despite a few instances of gashes resulting from billy-clubbing, the NATO summit brought significantly less violence on the police’s part. The protesters last weekend, diverse as they were, have been reported to have started the violence, or provoked it in some way. That is still largely in debate. The people, however, unanimously held the police in ‘68, accountable.

The media had no choice on how to cover the events of the Chicago Democratic Convention of ’68 – relay the chaos, raw. Today, the mass media has a choice on how to cover such events because of the fragmentation of the NO NATO Protest, the Occupy Movement, and the Anarchist group/tactic, The Black Bloc. A choice, opposed to the ’68 version of coverage: relay the chaos, raw. For the ones old enough for ’68, the reasons for protest are the same nowadays, but were just more focused then.

Advances in technology have added an interesting dynamic to the coverage of such events, and that is the citizen journalist. Now, with smart phones live-streaming video and taking professional quality photos (amongst those with actual professional grade film equipment), anyone can document true and raw occurrences and hold anybody accountable.

“In ’68, cops attacked protesters, not the other way around. And from what I’ve seen, it was the same [at NATO].

Then, there wasn’t as much preemptive scrutiny from the people, the press, or the government…it became an earmark for the CPD though. NATO had much more supervision, and control. Not to mention the presence of multiple law enforcement agencies. The lack of organization and commitment to a wholly peaceful protest on the ‘NO NATO’ protesters’ part doesn’t help their image in the presence of an outburst in the controlled, military-like atmosphere we saw last weekend.

“All I know is that it doesn’t stop…[it] didn’t stop in the ’60s, got lost in the ’70s with consumerism and technology, but now it’s back: ‘Why are you sending people to kill other people?’”

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